Families can save money on their grocery bill by getting to know their local butcher and greengrocer and learning more about seasonal produce, according to Perth's top chefs.
The old "quarter-acre" blocks with a veggie patch and hens have been replaced by a preference for bigger houses with tiny, landscaped gardens, and chefs say this has contributed to people's lack of knowledge about seasonal produce.
Many shoppers are unaware they are forking out more money for out-of-season fruit and vegetables that have probably been imported from overseas to ensure a year-round supply.
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Locally grown fresh produce in season will be in abundance, which keeps prices low, Red Cabbage chef-owner Scott O'Sullivan says.
"If you stick to the seasons everything will be plentiful and cheaper and it'll be packed with flavour," he says.
Chefs say the cheapest way to source fresh fruit and vegetables is to grow your own.
Greenhouse chef Matt Stone says some of the best fresh produce to grow in a small garden - even on an apartment balcony - are cherry tomatoes, peas, beans and herbs.
A 1sqm area is enough to grow potatoes to feed a family of four for an entire year, he says.
Stone says learning to cook cheaper cuts of beef, lamb, pork and chicken is a great way to save money.
Torre Butchers supplies meat to some of Perth's most-expensive restaurants, but owner David Torre says people on a budget need not feel intimidated about buying products from family-owned butchers such as his.
"I never mind when people ask my advice about the best way to cook meat, especially some of the secondary cuts that are cheaper but need to be prepared in a certain way to make sure they're not tough to eat," he says.
Offal may be a cheap source of protein, but he says secondary meat cuts that cost a bit more are better value for money because they are palate friendly.
Reputable butchers make fresh sausages using quality ingredients and "no nasty surprises". Torre says 12 sausages cost about $11; served with vegetables, they are a great meal option for a family on a tight budget.
"Find a butcher you trust and feel free to ask their advice on how to feed the family on a budget," he says.
TOP CHEFS SHARE THEIR TIPS:
- Grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. Freeze the excess or share with friends.
- Avoid buying fruit and vegetables that come onto the market in the first two weeks of the season. As produce becomes more plentiful, prices can drop by 50 per cent.
- Learn about what parts of a plant are edible and use as much as you can to avoid waste. Rhubarb leaves must be discarded but celery leaves work well in salads with nuts and cheese.
- Seafood is expensive, but salmon belly "costs hardly nothing".
- A whole, fresh free-range chicken costs about $16 and can easily be used to prepare several meals for a family. Don't discard the chicken frame - use it to make stock.
- Make your fridge work for you by buying only what you need. There's no point filling the fridge and pantry with produce if you just let it go to waste. It's irresponsible and a waste of money.
- Share the cost of buying fresh produce - meat and vegetables - in bulk with friends.
- Serve meat and vegetables with polenta, legumes, rice or pasta. They are inexpensive, filling and nutritious.
- Make your own pasta, pickles and cured meats.
- Get to know your local butcher and greengrocer and ask their advice on cheaper, seasonal products.